What gives the State of Israel the legitamacy of a halachic Jewish State? Why do the laws of a Jewish State apply to one which was constituted under secular auspices?
After 2000 years of subordination to other nations, dispersion in Exile and the desolation of our Land – and the desecration G-d’s which stems from this, we have been blessed with witnessing the amazing restoration of the Jewish People to their sovereignty and Land, which offers its fruits to its returning nation. This return has great spiritual, universal, even Divine, ramifications. The difficulty in appreciating this significance is due to the fact that the present situation in front of our eyes is far from perfect. The key to answering your question is, therefore, the understanding that the Redemption process takes place in stages (Talmud Yerushalmi. Brachot 1:1). If it was a matter of all-or-nothing, then considering all that is lacking, we could say indeed that it is “nothing,” obviously not what we have been praying for. But since our sources tell us that the redemption is a dynamic, developmental process, we can derive the simple conclusion that even though it is not complete, it does not mean it has not begun. To the contrary. Stage development means that it begins incomplete and develops toward completion and perfection. More specifically, from Biblical sources down to modern ones, we find that the general stages are delineated by two phases: first the physical redemption and then the spiritual redemption (see Yechezkel chapters 36 and 37). The physical redemption includes the return – Teshuva - to our existence as a nation, having a government and army, dealing with agriculture and industry, which is the foundation of our ultimately becoming “A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” (Shmot 19:6). (Our goal is not merely to be holy individuals rather to express the Divine ideals of holiness in all aspects of human existence, that of national life and international relations. This ideal manifests the oneness of G-d that encompasses both heaven ֹand earth, the spiritual and the physical realms.) The secular reborn state is like a child that will ultimately grow up to be a great scholar, but presently cannot even read or write. Unaware of his future role he sometimes uses his developing energies in undesirable directions or even destructively. However, instead of wishing to return to the period before our “troublemaker” was born, we thank G-d for giving us this long awaited baby. Despite its wrongdoings, we make every effort to educate and redirect all of its G-d given powers toward the proper goals. Zionism, the modern dress of our ancient yearnings to return to Eretz Yisrael and national vitality, takes the form of natural political efforts, based on human initiative which is in truth Divinely inspired (Vilna Gaon, Kol HaTor). The two elements of full Jewish life, “Nationalism” and “Religion,” were perceived as separate and irreconcilable. In reality, however, “The national, practical inclination is the external dress [manifestation] of the spiritual, and the latter is the light and soul of the former” (Rav Kook, Orot, p. 158). Therefore the two are not contradictory but complementary elements that together build the whole living organism of the Jewish people in its idyllic form. This is not an attempt to accommodate two different concepts. Rather, what has been misconceived as two opposing concepts is really one Divine ideal that transcends the individual components of nationalism and religion, and infuses new life and meaning into each. However distant the stated goals of the secular Zionists may be from holiness, it is not in their hands to remove G-d from the Nation of Israel’s national aspirations. Any lack of recognition (by the secular or the religious!) that this Divine inner source is behind all the amazing events of our era does not change this fact. In conclusion, we cannot judge the religious significance of the State of Israel only by what is presently revealed, for the Rabbis have taught us that the generation of the Mashiach is “bad on the outside and good on the inside” (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikun 60). We must develop the eyes of Emunah to see that inner good and to guide it to fuller expression. We must learn to see the whole goal that is unfolding before our eyes and therefore view the present as a stage in an ongoing process towards complete redemption. As the Chafetz Chaim stated: “The advent of the Mashiach, which is the revelation of the Divine Presence in the world… will require a measure of understanding on the part of the individual before he will be capable of appreciating it. One who gives no thought to the matter [of the Redemption] will obviously not feel anything [when it arrives]” (Cited in Beit Hashoeva p. 12). May we indeed see the completion of the Redemption, speedily in our days, Amen.